Monday, March 20, 2017

Customs of Primitive Churches, Of the election of a minister

PROP. VIII. Of the election of a minister

VIII. The election, or outward call, of a person to the ministry is an act of his church, excited by knowledge of God’s having endowed him with some,[1] and a belief of his having endowed him with all ministerial qualifications: the act admits of the following gradations; first their moving him by common suffrage to a private trial of his believed qualifications: the motion complied with, and proof given, they, secondly, vote him, by the like suffrage, to be a minister; and give him a written certificate of the vote to be a warranty of licence to preach in public, when occasion requires: next, he is ordained, and settled, of which more in the next propositions. The above transactions require several meetings of the church and party concerned, fasting; together with the presence of persons (at least of one) already in office; who shall open the meetings with prayers suitably prefaced; moved and direct the affairs decently and in order; and close the same meetings with prayers, praises, and benedictions.

1. Every minister is such by an act of his own church. No man or set of men can do that for a church. Nor yet one church for another. All Scripture examples are against these last, and in favour of the former process. Matthias was appointed a minister by his own church. The first deacons were made such in, and by their own church, Act. vi. 3. The persons mentioned in Act. xiv. 23 became elders in, and by their respective churches. The chief difference between ordinary and extraordinary ministers is, that the latter were made officers immediately by God; the former mediately viz., by means of the church.
2. The above act whereby a man is brought into the ministry, is not left to the option of the church; but is excited by a knowledge of his having some, and a belief of his having all ministerial qualifications: for as the Israelites pitched no where, nor moved any whither but as the divine pillar directed; so cannot a church pitch on which they please to be a minister, nor proceed as they think fit until God points out the man by qualifying him first for the office. These discoveries of his designation of the person command their notice, and direct their proceedings. See prop. vii, ver. 5.
3. The first part of the above act of the church is, their moving the person by their common suffrage to a private trial of his believed special qualifications, viz. of his aptness to teach; spirit of prayers; skill in the mysteries of the gospel, &c. His common qualifications are supposed to be known, viz. sense; utterance; temper; freedom from the guilt of gross sins; endowment with moral excellencies; and inclination to the office. Long acquaintance with the person affords a proof of these; and long acquainted with him the church must be, or choose a novice, which is prohibited. 1 Tim. iii. 6. But the other talents are of such a nature as to admit of no sufficient proof short of the exercise of them. Let these [also] first be proved, and then let them use the office &c. 1 Tim. iii. 10. Try the spirits, whether they be of God; for many false prophets &c. 1 John iv. 1. Thou hast tried them, which say they are apostles, &c. Rev. ii. 2. Let the prophets speak—and let the other judge, 1 Cor. xiv. 29. False brethren [viz. teachers, Act. xv. 1.] unawares brought in, who came in privily &c. Gal. ii. 4. Ye know the proof of him, Phil. ii. 22. Make full proof of thy ministry, 2 Tim. iv. 5. Ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, 2 Cor. xiii. 3.
4. The said motion accepted, and proof given, the church {act} secondly, by their common suffrage to vote the person to be a minister; and to give him a written certificate of the transaction. We read of ministers that carried letters of commendation to, and from, churches. 2 Cor. iii. 1. These [it is reasonable to suppose] were certificates of their call to the ministry, and good character; and of the nature of authority or licence to preach publicly. See 3 Joh. 9. 1 Cor. 16. 3.
5. Next, he is to be ordained, and settled. See prop. ix. x.
6. The above gradations by which a person is brought to the ministry, and settled in a church require several meetings of the church, viz. (1) A meeting to move the matter to the candidate; and after trials (2) a meeting to elect him to be a minister; at this he may be ordained, if all things allow it; if not they must (3) Have a meeting for his ordinations, which is commonly the case. At this he may also be set over the church or installed, if expedient; if not they must (4) Have a meeting to make him their bishop, pastor, or elder &c.
7. The presence of person already in office (at least one) is requisite. One may do; as may be argued from the case of Titus in Crete, ch. i. 5, and the personal directions given to Timothy, 1 Tim. v. 12. But two, or more, suit better; for then there will be a presbytery, 1 Tim. iv. 14. There is no example of a church (without any minister) that fixed a man in the office; but many examples of churches that furnished themselves with ministers with the help of other ministers. The apostles were present when the church of Jerusalem appointed Matthias, Act. i. Simeon, Lucius and Manaen were present in the church of Antioch when Paul and Barnabas were separated to the work, Act. xiii. Paul and Silas were present when the churches of Greece chose them elders, Act. xiv.
8. Those meetings should be attended with fastings; and (by means of the assisting officers) with addresses, prayers, praises, and benedictions. So Peter addressed the church of Jerusalem previous to their choice of Matthias, and prayed, Act. i. 15, 24. So the church of Antioch fasted, when Paul and Barnabas were separated unto the work Act. xiii. 2. The churches of Greece did the same with commendations to the Lord; which mean prayer, or benediction, or praise, or each. Act. xiv. 23.
9. To be continued…

Customs of Primitive Churches, Morgan Edwards, pages 17-19

[1] or, same?

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